The Death of A Beekeeper (1978) is one of the most distinguished Swedish novels of the last half century. To some extent is probably reflects Gustafsson's philosophical preoccupations (he is a professor of philosophy). Gustafsson uses a series of notebooks in this existential exploration of death. From the initial diagnosis to the apparent end, the reader travels through the beekeeper's life in a series of reflections and painful ruminations in the present. While avoiding his reality, the beekeeper discovers the joys and sorrows of his journey in an exploration of the self.
(born May 17, 1936) is a Swedish, poet, novelist and scholar. Born in Västerås, received his Licentiate degree in 1960 and his Ph.D. in Theoretical Philosophy in 1978. He lived in Austin, Texas until 2003, recently returned to Sweden. Professor at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, where he taught Philosophy and Creative Writing, until May 2006, when he retired.
Gustafsson is one of the most prolific Swedish writers since August Strindberg. He has gained international recognition with literary awards such as the Prix International Charles Veillon des Essais in 1983, the Heinrich Steffens Preis in 1986, Una Vita per la Litteratura in 1989, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for poetry in 1994, and several others. He has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. His major works have been translated into fifteen languages.
The Death of a Beekeeper, written in 1978, is Gustafsson's most critically acclaimed and commercially successful novel. Gustafsson himself has described it as "A book about pain. It describes a journey into the center where pain rules—and pain can tolerate no rivals."
Lars Lennart Vestin shares his creator's first name and birth-year (1936); he is dying of cancer of the spleen. The novel consists of extracts from his notebooks mostly made in the spring (his last one) of his last year. There are several notebooks: Yellow Notebook in which this retired divorced schoolmaster recorded household expenditure, notes about beekeeping, and reactions to certain external events; the Blue Notebook in which he placed newspaper cuttings, quotations from books he'd been reading, and stories which he'd tried to write; and the Damaged Notebook. This is where he set down not only urgent notes to himself but also his physical impressions of the disease.
Disjointed pages of the Damaged Notebook end the novel: 'Why am I of all people identical with the is pain?! Why am I of all people identical with someone who experiences this pain?' and (true not only of Lars himself but surely of many, many of us) ' I have wanted much too little. My whole life long people never had the feeling that I had any need of them. It 's interesting to compare The Death of a Beekeeper with Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook: A Novel (P.S.) (1962), in which the notebooks represent differing, contrasting strands of a personality. But Gustafsson subjects his chosen extracts to an intense discipline of subordination to his theme - how should we. And do we face our end?
In Death of a Beekeeper, the grimness of its situation is somehow transcended by the courage of the unremarkable, quietist notebook-writer: His regard for his bees and his dog, his ability to rise above circumstances and see the life around him with a grateful objectivity. His life hasn't really been very satisfactory, yet some experiences have been, and those he recaptures.
The Death of a Beekeeper is a clever book. And it is sparingly and beautifully written, with some very lyrical passages, at time very captivating. The book will grab you, most likely you will find yourself crying. And the book is rewarding and enriching. Overall an excellent book, and strongly recommended.
Also by Lars Gustafsson, from amazon US: Stories of Happy People and Stillness of the World Before Bach.
You can order these books by Lars Gustafsson from amazon UK as well: The Death of a Beekeeper, Stories of Happy People, and Stillness of the World Before Bach.
A Time in Xanadu, by Lars Gustafsson
This is an intriguing anthology of poetry by Swedish author Lars Gustafsson. It has been translated from the original Swedish by John Irons.
A Time in Xanadu raises some rather big questions. Where are we? How do we know? It contains powerful musings, written in a sparse and compact language. But beneath lie strange, eerie landscapes; “those white, strangely meaningless / days between Christmas and New Year.”
The questions raised concern travel, war, philosophy. The poem-stories take figures from avenues such as entertainment, history, mythology, and even comics, and use them as actors in the sometimes quite philosophical narratives.
The style and setting is distinctly Scandinavian, quite dark but even so with glimpses of humor. I like the collection a lot. It is, for me, a collection of poems to be read one at a time, at least twice, and perhaps even three or four times. My favorite is Centuries and Minutes – a poem for New Year’s Eve 1999. The poems, 84 in all, are highly evocative and very interesting.
Praise for A Time in Xanadu:
“Lars Gustafsson has an uncompromising vision of the utter complexity of modern life.”—The New York Times Book Review
"Gustafsson's A Time in Xanadu, his third translated collection of poems, manages to be personal and quirky while also deeply philosophical." —ForeWord